The Book of Joshua covers a period of 25 years, and describes one of the most memorable conquests in history. “The occupation of this small strip of territory scarcely larger than the country of Wales, though it led to no further results in the way of conquest, has nevertheless to a great extent molded the moral and religious history of the world.” The first 5 books of the Bible (Genesis to Deuteronomy) lead Israel up to Canaan; and Joshua complements these by leading Israel into Canaan (Baxter). The Book of Joshua can be divided into 3 main parts: entering the land (Josh. 1-4); overcoming the land (Josh. 6-12) and ; occupying the land (Josh. 13-24).
The major theme of Joshua is the victory of faith. The key event is when the Israelites cross the Jordan River at flood stage in Joshua 3 & 4. The flow of the river stopped the minute the priests, who were carrying the ark of the covenant, entered the water edge. The Jordan River begins north of the Sea of the Galilee and when it empties into the Dead Sea in the south, it’s almost 1300 feet below sea level, one of the lowest points in the world. No wonder “Jordan” means “Descender” or the “Descending One”.
The Jordan River is a picture or type of the cross of Jesus Christ. Canaan or the Promised Land is a picture or type of the Christian”s life in Christ. In Eph. 1:3 we read these words: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” The actual physical land was also a land of blessings, but these blessings were physical blessings. It was a land ” flowing with milk and honey.” For Israel to experience these blessings, they had to enter into Canaan by humble faith in God’s promises in order to defeat the more powerful Canaanites. For the Christian to actually experience the spiritual blessings we have in Christ, we need to learn to live by faith and obedience to God’s Word.
Just as Israel spent 40 years wandering in the desert because of unbelief and disobedience, so can the Christian believer spend all the years of their lives wandering in a spiritual desert because of unbelief and disobedience. Instead of experiencing spiritual victory and spiritual fruit, we can continue in spiritual defeat and barrenness.
Some old Christian hymns have pictured Canaan as a type of heaven and the crossing of the Jordan River as a type of the believer’s physical death. This cannot be correct, however, since there were battles and enemies to be fought in Canaan. In the new heavens and new earth there will be no enemies of darkness – no sin, no Satan, no death. Instead, it is a picture of our present life in Christ. The final section of the Book of Ephesians (6:10-18) teaches us that the believer in Christ is engaged in an ongoing conflict with the powers of darkness in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). J.Sidlow Baxter has some apt words to say to us about this: “Jordan does not typify death of the body and departure into the beyond, but that deeper union of our hearts with Christ in His death whereby we become completely separated unto Him, and introduced into “the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.” It is this New Testament term “the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ” which most accurately sums up the type-meaning of Canaan. Joshua was the Captain of Israel who led them to take possession of their physical inheritance – Canaan (Josh. 11:23). Jesus is the Captain who leads the Christian to take possession of our spiritual inheritance in Him (Eph. 1:18-22). In Christ’s love and service, Pastor John